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The Tom Brady Diet, also known as the TB12 Method, is a whole foods diet developed by professional American football player Tom Brady. It’s claimed to be one of the main reasons behind Brady’s longevity in the professional football world.

Brady credits his diet and fitness regimen as helping him lower his risk of injury while improving athletic performance, recovery, energy levels, and overall health.

In 2017, the first edition of the TB12 Method was released as a guide for others to eat like Tom Brady. This was followed by a revised, updated edition of the TB12 Method released in 2020.

Some follow the diet to lose weight and have seen success. Others follow it with hopes of feeling more energized and for its potential to benefit athletic performance.

Many online reviews by those who’ve tried the diet are positive, but critics point out that the diet is unnecessarily complex, unsustainable in the long term, and not supported by science.

This article reviews the pros and cons of the Tom Brady Diet to help you decide if it may work for you.

DIET REVIEW SCORECARD

At Healthline, diets are scored on a scale of 1 to 5 by a dietitian. The overall score is calculated based on the performance of the diet in each subcategory.

  • Overall score: 3.21
  • Weight loss: 4
  • Healthy eating: 3.5
  • Sustainability: 3.75
  • Whole body health: 2.5
  • Nutrition quality: 5
  • Evidence based: 2

BOTTOM LINE: The Tom Brady Diet, or TB12 Method, is a whole-foods-based diet that may aid weight loss, protect against diseases, and boost your sports performance and recovery. Still, it’s very restrictive and many principles are not based on sound science making it difficult to maintain long term.

The Tom Brady Diet was introduced by professional American football player Tom Brady in 2017 as part of his book The TB12 Method, which details his 12 principles for sustained peak performance.

It promises to boost your energy levels, minimize inflammation, reduce your risk of injuries, and enhance your sports performance and recovery.

The diet emphasizes eating whole, minimally processed foods and bans foods thought to promote inflammation.

In addition to food guidelines, the TB12 Method has a chapter on hydration which makes claims regarding the best types of water, how much to drink, and the benefits of electrolytes.

The program also covers training guidelines, provides recipes and a shopping list, as well as promotes an array of TB12 meals, snacks, and proprietary supplements.

Pros

  • The diet places an emphasis on whole fruits and vegetables, which ultimately encourages those following the diet to meet or exceed the daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Saturated and trans fats are restricted, as are processed meats and cured meats — a practice that may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers (1, 2)
  • On this diet, added sugars and highly refined carbohydrates are restricted in favor of unsweetened beverages and minimally processed carbohydrate sources.
  • The diet incorporates elements of mindfulness, which could be beneficial for weight management.

Cons

  • The emphasis on organic, grass-fed, local foods may have unintended consequences, such as avoidance of otherwise healthful foods that don’t meet those requirements due to availability or cost.
  • TB12 Method supplements are encouraged, but they’re expensive and there aren’t suggested alternatives.
  • The diet’s broad recommendations on how much water to drink and on portion sizes are not universally appropriate — for example, they won’t work well for athletes or other highly active individuals who have varied fluid and calorie needs.

The Tom Brady Diet is a plant-based diet with a primary focus on minimally processed, whole foods. An emphasis is placed on eating only organic, locally grown and seasonal produce whenever possible.

Additionally, the diet recommends eating only organic, grass-fed, free-range, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free meats and poultry as well as wild, hormone-free and antibiotic-free fish.

Followers of this diet are instructed to eat organically grown fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes 80% of the time. The remaining 20% of the diet comes from grass-fed, organic, antibiotic- and hormone-free lean meats and wild-caught fish or seafood.

The TB12 Method has an extensive list of foods to avoid or limit, due to them being pro-inflammatory. These include:

  • non-organic grass-fed dairy
  • refined carbohydrates
  • trans and saturated fats
  • added sugars
  • salt
  • alcohol
  • caffeine

The diet also limits:

  • GMOs
  • most cooking oils, like canola and soy
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • other soy-containing foods

Brady’s personal chef is famously quoted as saying that Tom Brady avoids nightshade vegetables due to their supposed inflammatory properties.

However, research doesn’t support the idea that nightshade vegetables cause inflammation.

“Nightshades are family of produce and spices that contain the compound alkaloids which are believed to be inflammatory, but there is little to no research to suggest that alkaloids are associated with inflammation,” says Nicole Feneli, RD, CSSD, VP of wellness, performance nutrition & sustainability at FLIK Hospitality Group.

In fact, there’s some recent evidence to the contrary.

What’s more, the most recent version of the TB12 Method allows nightshade vegetables and even includes tomatoes and peppers in the shopping list. The change will likely prove a welcome addition for those considering the diet.

Additional rules

Aside from its strict food guidelines, the Tom Brady Diet has a few additional rules:

  • Drink a lot of fluids: The TB12 Method recommends drinking half your body weight in water daily while also adding electrolytes to most of the water you drink. However, the diet recommends avoiding drinking water with or around meals.
  • Meal timing: The diet instructs followers to avoid eating within 3 hours of going to bed.
  • Portion sizes: The diet recommends eating meat, poultry, and fish in portions the size of your palm accompanied by two palm sizes worth of vegetables.
  • When to stop eating: The TB12 Method also instructs its followers to stop eating when they’re 75% full with claims that this practice aids in digestion and absorption of nutrients.

The Tom Brady Diet isn’t specifically designed or promoted as a weight loss diet. That said, it may help you lose weight due to the potential to reduce total calorie intake.

This is because the diet instructs followers to avoid highly processed foods while choosing fiber-rich, whole foods. And it outlines specific guidelines on timing of meals while also paying attention to fullness cues.

The TB12 Method emphasizes eating minimally processed foods which may aid in weight loss. Eating a diet with majority processed foods has shown to contribute to an increased calorie intake which can contribute to weight gain over time (3).

The diet also limits the amount of food you can eat in the three hours before bedtime, which discourages evening snacking. This practice of eating within a specific window of time may further reduce total calorie intake which can contribute to weight loss (4).

Additionally, Brady recommends leaving the table when you’re 75% full, a practice that may have beneficial effects related to mindfulness and weight management.

“Leaving the table when you are 75% full could be a good tip for most people as we tend to eat past the point of fullness,” Feneli says.

Mindful eating, which encourages people to pay attention to their hunger and fullness cues and acknowledge when they’re full, has been shown to be helpful in weight loss (5).

Research consistently shows that a calorie deficit results in weight loss, regardless of the approach taken to achieve the deficit (6, 7).

The TB12 Method emphasizes fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and promotes drinking water throughout the day while also restricting sources of added sugar including sugar-sweetened beverages.

Fiber-rich diets aid weight loss, as they help you feel full longer which may reduce calorie intake. Additionally, replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water reduces total calorie intake and has been associated with weight loss (8, 9).

However, due to its strict rules, the diet and its weight loss benefits may not be sustainable long term which could put you at risk of weight regain.

In many ways, the TB12 Method resembles that of many popular diets including the Mediterranean diet, Mayo Clinic diet, and DASH diet, all of which have been ranked as top diets in recent years due to their myriad health benefits.

May improve heart health

The Tom Brady Diet places an emphasis on eating mostly plants while also limiting unhealthy fat sources like trans and saturated fat.

The diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, as well as limited amounts of lean meats and fish. Specifically, the TB12 Method recommends an 80/20 split between plant and animal products.

Other experts approve of this approach, too.

“For the general population, this is a great recommendation for a heart-healthy diet,” Feneli says.

“Produce, grains and legumes are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber while typically being low in fat,” she says. “Most people can get enough protein with only 20% of their calories coming from lean meat/seafood; in fact, most Americans eat too much animal protein.”

Research associates this eating pattern with a lower risk of stroke, heart attacks, and death from heart disease (10, 11).

Additionally, it may also reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of risk factors, including elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, that harm heart health (12).

However, this eating pattern can make it difficult for some, including athletes, to meet their protein needs, Feneli says.

“While it can be done — vegetables, grains and legumes do contain protein — the volume of food that needs to be consumed to get enough protein is daunting,” she says.

This could explain why Brady reportedly drinks multiple TB12 protein shakes per day.

May protect against other diseases

The minimally processed, fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds encouraged as well as the diet’s similarities to the Mediterranean diet may aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes (13).

Additionally, the diet restricts your intake of alcohol, processed meats, added sugars, and trans fats, which have been associated with a reduced risk for many chronic diseases (14, 15, 16).

May improve athletic performance and recovery

Some aspects of the Tom Brady Diet may help boost athletic performance and recovery.

For instance, it’s rich in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds that work together to reduce inflammation, an important aspect of optimal performance and recovery (17).

This is especially important for professional athletes, whose busy competition and travel schedules can present challenges for maintaining a healthy immune system while also optimizing recovery (17).

Proper hydration, which is strongly promoted on this diet, is another factor crucial to sports performance and recovery (18).

However, it’s important to keep in mind that diet is only one component to sports performance. A training regimen that’s formulated to help you meet your performance goals is also necessary to optimize performance.

Additionally, a diet to support sports performance must meet your daily energy needs to be successful. Because the TB12 Method limits a significant amount of foods, it may be more challenging to reach your daily energy intake.

Working with a sports dietitian can help to ensure you’re meeting your energy and nutrient needs.

Despite its potential benefits, there are several downsides associated with the Tom Brady Diet.

Not based on sound science

Many aspects of this diet are not based on strong science.

The TB12 Method strongly encourages choosing only organic, local foods and makes claims that these foods are more nutrient-dense than their conventional counterparts.

However, research is not conclusive that organic foods are more nutrient-dense than conventionally grown foods and in fact, recommendations to eat only organic may result in a lower total intake of produce overall (19, 20, 21).

The diet also encourages the avoidance of some cooking oils like canola oil. However, research has shown that dietary intake of unsaturated fats, like those found in canola oil, has been associated with positive health benefits when part of a healthy eating pattern (22).

Finally, though adequate hydration is important, there’s no evidence to suggest that the large amounts of water promoted on this diet provide any more benefits than more moderate intakes. Plus, hydration needs are highly individualized.

“Hydration requirements vary greatly based on factors such as body size, activity level, heat and humidity, and level of sweat produced from exercise,” Feneli says. “Drinking half your body weight in water does not address any of these factors.”

Unnecessarily expensive

The Tom Brady Diet can be unnecessarily expensive.

For instance, it discourages eating conventionally grown foods, favoring organic foods instead. This can be a costly practice which may result in a lower intake of health-promoting foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

The emphasis it places on organic, grass-fed dairy may also present a monetary challenge for some people.

“Many people do not have the luxury of purchasing only organic and grass-fed dairy, as it is significantly more expensive than standard dairy,” Feneli says.

“Standard dairy is an excellent source of protein and calcium. I would recommend sticking to low fat, but otherwise purchase whatever type is right for your budget,” she says.

Finally, the diet also promotes proprietary supplements that come at a premium cost. This is a similar approach to some other popular diets that promote supplements as a core component of their program.

However, a varied diet that meets your energy needs is unlikely to result in a significant gap in nutrient intake that requires supplementation.

Diet relies on supplementation

Not surprisingly, the TB12 Method is set up to encourage purchasing TB12 supplements. For example, protein at meals is limited to a portion no larger than the palm of your hand while simultaneously encouraging the intake of the TB12 protein shakes.

“The recommended portion size depends on the size of the person, how active they are and what their goal is,” Feneli says. “Saying a portion should be the size of your hand is really too broad.”

“Protein shakes can be beneficial to someone who has higher calorie and/or protein requirement if they have a hard time meeting their needs with solid foods, but they’re not necessary for everyone.”

The diet also promotes the addition of TB12 electrolytes to all water you drink.

Electrolyte intake is extremely important for athletes and active people losing excessive fluid via sweat, but there’s no reason for electrolytes to be added to water throughout the day if not experiencing sweat losses or loss of electrolytes outside of typical ranges.

Eating a balanced diet can help to ensure you’re meeting your electrolyte needs.

The bottom line: The expensive proprietary supplements promoted by this diet are not required to lose weight or improve your health.

The Tom Brady Diet encourages you to eat the following minimally processed foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables: These should be organic, non-GMO, locally grown, and seasonal.
  • Meats: Skinless chicken and turkey, beef, bison, and lamb are all encouraged and expected to be organic, grass-fed, and free of hormones and antibiotics.
  • Fish and seafood: These must be wild-caught instead of farmed.
  • Whole grains: Minimally processed grains like quinoa and steel-cut oats as well as breads such as sprouted bread and organic whole wheat bread are allowed.
  • Legumes: This category includes all beans, peas, and lentils, except for soybeans and products derived from them. Pasta made from beans and legumes like chickpea or black bean pasta are also allowed.
  • TB12 products and supplements: These include whey protein powder, vegan protein bars, electrolyte mixes, nut mixes, and granola.

Around 80% of the diet should consist of plant foods, while the remaining 20% can be made up of grass-fed, organic, antibiotic- and hormone-free lean meats, and wild-caught fish or seafood.

The Tom Brady Diet also encourages you to halve your body weight in pounds and drink that many ounces of water daily.

The Tom Brady diet restricts your intake of the following foods:

  • Caffeinated foods and drinks: Limit caffeine intake to 200 mg or less per day.
  • Non-organic, grass-fed dairy: These include milk, cheese, and yogurt. TB12 whey protein supplements are allowed.
  • Refined carbohydrates: This category includes breakfast cereals with added sugar, highly processed snacks like cakes, cookies, and candy, and foods made with white flour.
  • Non-organic, non-local, or non-seasonal produce: This includes conventionally grown vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, as well as those that are imported or bought out of season.
  • Factory-farmed meat and seafood: You should not eat non-organic, hormone- or antibiotic-containing meat, fish, or seafood.
  • Most cooking oils: Avoid all cooking oils including soy, canola, safflower, and corn oil.
  • Soy-based foods: Avoid all foods made from soy including soy-based protein bars, oils, and soy-based snacks. However, gluten-free soy sauce is allowed.
  • GMOs: Those following this diet should not eat foods that come from a genetically modified organism (GMO).
  • Processed foods: Candy, soft drinks, sauces, and foods containing added sugars, GMOs, artificial sweeteners, or trans fats should be avoided.
  • Alcohol: All types of alcoholic drinks should be avoided.

The diet also discourages eating within 3 hours of bedtime as well as avoiding protein portion sizes larger than the palm of your hand.

Following the TB12 Method will require that you have plenty TB12 Method-compliant foods on hand. This sample shopping list can get you started.

Fruits and vegetables

Make sure all fruits and vegetables are organic, in season, and local when possible, such as:

  • Leafy greens: arugula, kale, spinach
  • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
  • Squashes: butternut squash, yellow squash, spaghetti squash
  • Root vegetables: sweet potato
  • Stone fruits: peaches, plums, apricots
  • Berries: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries
  • Other fruits and veggies: apples, bananas, mushrooms, bell peppers

Frozen fruits and vegetables are also allowed — and encouraged — when fruits and vegetables are out of season.

Meat, fish, and poultry

Only organic, grass-fed, free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat, fish, and poultry should be eaten, such as:

  • Red meat: beef, bison
  • Poultry: skinless chicken, turkey
  • Fish and crustaceans: tuna, sardines, wild-caught salmon, halibut, shrimp
  • Other proteins: organic, pasture-raised eggs

Grains

  • Minimally processed whole grains: quinoa, steel-cut oats
  • Breads: organic whole wheat bread, sprouted bread
  • Flours: whole wheat flour, oat flour

Beans and legumes

  • Beans: kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans
  • Pulses: lentils, split peas
  • Pasta: made from back beans or lentils

Oils

  • almond oil
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • walnut oil
  • avocado oil
  • sesame oil

Dairy and dairy Substitutes

  • Dairy: organic, grass-fed dairy
  • Dairy alternatives: almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, rice milk

Here’s a typical 3-day menu suited for the Tom Brady Diet.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: chia pudding topped with almonds and coconut flakes
  • Snack: TB12 protein shake
  • Lunch: hearty vegetable-chicken soup with kale and brown rice vermicelli
  • Snack: TB12 snack such as a protein bar
  • Dinner: wild salmon tacos on non-GMO corn tortilla wraps served with a side green salad

Water with TB12 electrolytes should be consumed throughout the day.

Day 2

  • Breakfast: water with TB12 electrolytes plus homemade granola stirred into coconut yogurt
  • Snack: TB12 protein shake
  • Lunch: raw lasagna
  • Snack: TB12 snack pack or mixed nuts
  • Dinner: lentil dahl topped with fresh spinach and served on a bed of brown rice

Water with TB12 electrolytes should be consumed throughout the day.

Day 3

  • Breakfast: smoothie with TB12 whey protein and fruit
  • Snack: TB12 protein shake or fruit with nut butter
  • Lunch: vegetable-quinoa bowl topped with cashew sauce, lime curry, and black beans
  • Snack: veggies and hummus or TB12 protein bar
  • Dinner: steak, broccoli, and sweet potatoes

Water with TB12 electrolytes should be consumed throughout the day.

Specific recipes for this diet can be found in the TB12 Nutrition Manual.

Why does Tom Brady not eat nightshades?

Tom Brady’s chef said in an interview that Brady avoids eating nightshade vegetables because they’re not anti-inflammatory (23).

However, research does not support the idea that nightshade vegetables aren’t anti-inflammatory. In fact, nightshade vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes have nutrients that are considered to be anti-inflammatory, including antioxidants and certain vitamins and minerals (24, 25).

Is the Tom Brady diet anti-inflammatory?

The Tom Brady diet is a primarily plant-based diet that eliminates trans fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates while also encouraging the intake of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

This type of diet has shown to be anti-inflammatory and could help prevent certain chronic diseases (26, 27, 28).

What does Tom Brady eat for breakfast?

According to the TB12 Method website, Brady typically starts his day with 20 ounces of water and electrolytes followed by a high calorie, high fat, high protein smoothie. This is followed by a workout and then his next meal.

The Tom Brady Diet promotes eating nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods and limiting processed ones.

It may aid weight loss, protect against various diseases, and boost your sports performance and recovery.

Still, it’s unnecessarily restrictive and has some principles that are not based on sound science. Additionally, the many rules and restrictions make it likely difficult to maintain long term.